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Capsule Reviews 

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Adult Entertainment In Elaine May's wicked spoof of the porno-movie industry, the laughs begin when four delightfully dumb XXX film stars decide to produce their own blue movie and bring in a young Yale grad to add class up the project. Under the direction of Chuck Harper, the sprightly cast strikes just the right balance between endearing and dirty. All six performers -- Larissa Forsythe, Carrie Hegdahl, Matt Kahler, Jerry Russo, Jared Sanz-Agero and Julie Venegoni -- are terrific, even if the evening can't sustain its frenzied comic pace all the way to the end. Performed by HotCity Theatre through May 7 at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $23 ($18 for students and seniors). Call 314-482-9125. (Dennis Brown)

Defending the Caveman A sitcom-mentality stage play "experience" without the pesky problems of character relationships or plot. As a play, it's pretty good stand-up comedy -- especially for married couples who embody stereotypic gender roles. The solo character is a married guy trying to defend men from disdain. "It's not that guys are assholes," he explains. "They just come from a different culture." Creator Rob Becker romanticizes cavefolk as a model society: They respected and honored gender differences. Nobody called the cavewoman a bitch, nobody called the caveman an asshole (perhaps because language hadn't yet been invented?). Unfortunately the material doesn't really build. Cody Lyman (from Chicago's Second City) plays the Caveman. Open-ended run at the Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza (second level), Page Avenue and I-270, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $35-$39.50. Call 314-469-7529. (Deanna Jent)

The Diaries of Adam & Eve Beginning in the early 1890s, Mark Twain wrote two separate first-person narratives about Adam and Eve, fifteen years apart. Ever since, adapters have been trying to integrate the material. It's easy to see why this seven-year-old version by David Birney has enjoyed wide success. While Adam (Kevin McCameron) spends his time on "the estate" jumping over Niagara Falls in barrels, Eve (Barbara Swift) is busy learning about good and evil, sorrow and sex. Director Carla Moody takes a "Readers Theater" approach to the material with strategically placed stools and music stands, which are framed by Kim Doyle's lovely arbor set. For those who only associate Mark Twain with the likes of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, this story is a gently amusing revelation. Performed by the St. Louis Community College-Forest Park through April 30 at the Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts, 5600 Oakland Avenue. Tickets are $4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors. Call 314-644-9386. (DB)

Levee James Reviewed in this issue.

Poona the Fuckdog and Other Plays for Children Reviewed in this issue.

Scapin The year's most unexpected pleasure so far. Bill Irwin is a bona fide genius, so it's no surprise that his breezy translation of Molière's 1671 comedy (co-adapted with Mark O'Donnell) is a hoot. What we weren't prepared for was the high caliber of the production, which delivers 90 minutes of sheer delight. Don't worry about the plot: It's Molière, which means masters and servants and thwarted lovers and happy endings. Focus instead on the remarkably in-control Schmack Virgin in the title role. He's as laid-back as Bing Crosby, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance (especially in a sombrero), yet he doesn't miss a laugh. Terrific support is served up by just about everyone, including Jerry Rabushka, whose keyboard riffs at the synthesizer charmingly enhance the action. Performed by Off Center Theatre through May 1 at St. John's United Methodist Church, 5000 Washington Place (at Kingshighway). Tickets are $12-$15. Call 314-995-2679. (DB)

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